By Chika Otuchikere
A report by a panel of economists has predicted that the Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria is expected to cut the Monetary Policy Rate, also known as the benchmark interest rate, before the end of the year.
In its latest report, FocusEconomics, Consensus Forecast Sub-Saharan Africa, noted that the MPC left the MPR and all other monetary policy parameters unchanged at its first meeting of the year.
a�?As a result, the monetary policy rate remains at a record high of 14 per cent and the asymmetric corridor at plus 200 and minus 500 basis points around the monetary policy rate. In addition, the committee left the liquidity ratio unchanged at 30 per cent and the cash reserve ratio stable at 22.50 per cent.
a�?The banka��s decision to hold the monetary policy rate unchanged at a record high reflects stubbornly high inflation in Nigeriaa��s economy.a�?
The report pointed out that although inflation had lessened somewhat since peaking at 18.7 per cent in January 2017, pressure from food prices along with rising energy prices had kept price pressures high and inflation remained well above the CBNa��s target of six per cent to nine per cent.
A�a�?Looking forward, the CBN struck a broadly neutral tone in its communique, mentioning that the positive trend seen in key macroeconomic indicators as a result of the tight stance should be allowed more time to fully manifest.
a�?However, inflation is forecast to retreat further over the coming months, and assuming the foreign exchange market continues to remain stable or exhibit positive tendencies, the banka��s preferences are likely to swing more towards a rate cut going forward,a�? FocusEconomics said.
According to the report, a�?All of FocusEconomics Consensus Forecast panelists expect the CBN to cut the monetary policy rate before the end of the year, with consensus for the rate to end 2018 at 12.11 per cent. In 2019, the panel sees the monetary policy rate ending the year at 11.75 per cent.
a�?The economy ended 2017 on a firmer note, with growth picking up to a two-year high. Activity is expected to have continued gaining steam in the first quarter of 2018, supported by higher oil prices and greater foreign exchange rate supply.
While the next MPC meeting has been slated for the May 21 and 23, the federal government has still not passed the 2018 budget, delaying its implementation and an expected boost in government spending.